Firefly: Bushwhacked
April 9, 2015 4:32 AM - Season 1, Episode 3 - Subscribe

The crew of Serenity comes across a transport ship drifting in space. After recovering a terrified survivor and a valuable cargo, they are pulled in by an Alliance cruiser. While the Alliance commander grills each member of the crew, it appears that Reaver-spawned violence has not yet run its course. (wiki)

REVIEW
“Bushwhacked” has an unusual structure, which reminded me a little of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel, in that it moves steadily in one direction for well over half its running time and then changes gears in the final 15 minutes or so. For a good long stretch, the episode is a little like a haunted-house movie. While the crew is salvaging whatever they can from the ship, they’re stumbling across dead bodies, and one feral-seeming survivor, whom Jayne shoots when he’s attacked from behind. (“He looked bigger when I couldn’t see him,” Jayne explains.) But then an Alliance ship shows up, and as its Commander Harken (played by Doug Savant) interrogates the crew, that wounded survivor begins to transform into a Reaver himself. So almost two-thirds of “Bushwhacked” is moody horror, and then the last third features more fast-paced, cross-cutting suspense, jumping from one scene to another. Intentionally or not, the construction of the episode itself is like the contrast between a life on the far edges of the frontier and a life in the fold of a bureaucracy." (Noel Murray at avclub)

SAMPLE QUOTE
[Commander Harken questions the crew.]
Harken: You fought with Captain Reynolds in the war?
Zoe: Fought with a lot of people in the war.
Harken: And your husband?
Zoe: Fight with him sometimes, too.
Harken: Is there any particular reason you don't wish to discuss your marriage?
Zoe: Don't see that it's any of your business, is all. We're very private people.
[Cut to Zoe's husband Wash.]
Wash: The legs! [laughs] Oh yeah, definitely have to say it was her legs. You can put that down. Her legs, and right where her legs... meet her back. Tha— actually, that whole area. That, and... and above it. [...] Have you seen what she wears? Forget about it. Have you ever been with a warrior woman? (wikiquote)

MANDARIN TRANSLATION
"Zhen daomei! [Just our luck!]" - Mal when seeing the ravaged bodies of the settlers. (more at firefly wiki)

TRIVIA
This is the first significant look at the handiwork of the "Reavers", a population of humans that have become cannibalistic and apparently feral raiders, first encountered in the pilot episode "Serenity". (wiki)

The syringe that Inara has is not to commit suicide. It was originally intended to kill anyone who rapes her in case they were boarded by Reavers. This would have been in a future episode but the show was tragically canceled. (imdb)

BONUS
“We Don’t Say ‘Indian’”: On the Paradoxical Construction of the Reavers
by Agnes B. Curry
posted by valkane (15 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
The syringe that Inara has is not to commit suicide. It was originally intended to kill anyone who rapes her in case they were boarded by Reavers. This would have been in a future episode but the show was tragically canceled. (imdb)

That particular potential storyline actually makes me feel better about the show being canceled. Yikes.

How do folks feel about the Reavers as villains in general? I am always puzzled by how they fly their ships and keep themselves going without eating each other, but they are pleasantly scary.
posted by chaiminda at 5:29 AM on April 9, 2015


Yeah, there's always been times when I feel like the early death of Firefly was the best thing that happened to it, and hearing about that future plotline cemented it. Just... WTF Joss/Tim.
posted by kmz at 7:22 AM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've heard about 4 different explanations for that syringe, though. Wasn't there some loose confirmation of the "Inara is terminally ill" theory a little while ago?
posted by kagredon at 10:09 AM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


How do folks feel about the Reavers as villains in general? I am always puzzled by how they fly their ships and keep themselves going without eating each other, but they are pleasantly scary.

They never made a lot of sense, for the reasons you point out - if they've become so "uncivilized"and insanely vicious how are they running advanced technology and undertaking space voyages? But I think it's one of those areas where if the show had more time, we might have learned a little bit more about the Reavers and that there is some type of society there, just something alien and horrible (which is how we would appear to them). The actions here (leaving behind a victim who would turn, the booby trap) certainly suggest capability beyond just savagery and had me thinking there was some larger plan in play in terms of the Reavers having some goals and strategy that would have evolved over the series.

They are great bogeymen, and their randomness and unpredictability in terms of when and where they might appear was nice. And the sequence with the crew all prepping themselves for a possible Reaver boarding rather nicely set up the tension and dread. But the "savages on the frontier" motif is troublesome.
posted by nubs at 12:29 PM on April 9, 2015 [2 favorites]


But I think it's one of those areas where if the show had more time, we might have learned a little bit more about the Reavers

I am just as happy it didn't. This is really the only time we see them until the Big Damn Movie, and on my first viewing of the episode, they were sold to me and everyone I watched with because unflappable hulking oaf Jayne is terrified of them.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:07 PM on April 9, 2015


I'm happy that we didn't see the Reavers again too. *shivers*
posted by donajo at 1:26 PM on April 9, 2015


Count me as yet another person who when they heard about the Inara plotline thought, "....I'm glad Firefly got cancelled."

I found the savage on the frontier motif with the Reavers a lot more troubling absent the movie, but I agree with the linked bonus article that you're still left with a pretty problematic trope by virtue of how Firefly is so thoroughly rooted in the Western genre. If Firefly wasn't a Western, then the Reavers would be a fairly straightforward version of the zombie trope, a version where a government attempt to force conformity and docility backfires horribly because, to paraphrase Mal from the movie, you can't make people better. But Firefly is a Western, so I think Whedon saying the Reavers are a "deracialized" version of the savage Indian trope is disingenuous at best.

So I really like the idea of Reavers, because I think it's powerful and thematically resonant to have them be at least partially the result of the Alliance attempting to arrive at a peaceful society through a different kind of force. And I really like how Bushwhacked sets them up to be so terrifying, with the things Mal and the others say about them seeming equal parts over the top urban legend and genuinely believable horror. But I think it's impossible to separate them from their context in the Western genre, and that leaves me with some of the same reservations as those expressed in the linked article.
posted by yasaman at 4:45 PM on April 9, 2015


The explanation about Inara's syringe makes no sense. I mean, yes, she might have ended up using it that way (and I'll join the chorus of those being glad we didn't have to see that), but when she takes it out in the "Serenity" backstory episode, and here, she's clearly not expecting to fend off a hoard of reavers with it.
posted by dry white toast at 8:45 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


If the syringe thing were true I'd expect some sort of attribution if not citation. As it stands it's just the kind of questionable anonymous user-generated content that isn't worth losing sleep over. Certainly not worth being glad a very good show was cancelled over.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:46 PM on April 9, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here's that citation.
posted by chaiminda at 4:00 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


if they've become so "uncivilized"and insanely vicious how are they running advanced technology and undertaking space voyages?

They're insanely vicious towards non-Reavers. There was a pulpy book trilogy by David Moody called the HATER series that is predicated on something causing a segment of the population to become inflamed with rage by those who are not transformed. They're not turned completely feral, but they cannot contain their fear and loathing for non-Haters. That seems like something like what happens to the Reavers, though there's clearly other kooky there.
posted by phearlez at 7:27 AM on April 10, 2015 [1 favorite]


keep themselves going without eating each other

Most societies that practice(d) cannibalism have done so ritualistically, e.g. of outcasts, captured/defeated enemies, and random interlopers (e.g. Michael Rockefeller). The fact that time and again the practice completely freaked out those from Western societies really doesn't have much bearing on the reality or make then indiscriminate monsters.

I suppose it's worth pointing out current reactions toward ISIL.
posted by dhartung at 12:51 AM on April 11, 2015


So you think the Reavers were supposed to have their own culture and laws? If we went on a Reaver ship, we'd see them working cooperatively, raising children, gathering non-human food? I agree that's more realistic but I don't get the impression that that was Joss and Tim's plan for the Reavers, based on their own comments about how they are monsters.
posted by chaiminda at 7:28 AM on April 11, 2015


ewwww on the Inara thread. seriously, killer vaginal secretions?
posted by tilde at 4:53 PM on April 12, 2015


This episode to me is all about fear, and specifically, the fear of emptiness, of nothingness. The crew talks about how the nothingness of space is what drives Reavers over the edge of madness, that the men somehow internalize the nothingness and it empties out their own minds and souls.

"Jayne's right. Reavers ain't men. Or they forgot how to be. Now they're just nothing. They got out to the edge of the galaxy, to that place of nothing, and that's what they became."

I love how Jayne, the physically strongest of the crew, is the most terrified of the prospect of Reavers. Is he really just afraid of fighting them? Or is there another underlying fear? I like to think it might be the possibility that anyone - even he - could go mad and become a Reaver, given enough time and nothingness.

Simon, on the other hand, is the first to volunteer to explore the abandoned ship. He’s not much of a fighter, but he doesn't seem worried about the possibility of coming face to face with a Reaver. He does however have a parallel fear.

Jayne: "Something wrong?
Simon: "Hmm? Oh. No. No, I ... I suppose it's just the thought of a little mylar and glass being the only thing separating a person from... nothing."
Jayne: "It's impressive what nothing can do to a man."

So Simon fears the physical, external nothingness of space while Jayne fears the internal nothingness of the Reavers. Two sides of the same coin really.
posted by platinum at 7:09 PM on April 13, 2015 [1 favorite]


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